- Jake Trotter, ESPN Staff Writer
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With signing day quickly approaching, it’s time to close the chapter on the 2013 season. We’re counting down the Top 25 players in the Big 12 in 2013 over the next few days with a list collaboratively selected by Jake Trotter, Brandon Chatmon and Max Olson. We continue the postseason countdown with the No. 23 player in the Big 12:
No. 23: Eric Striker, LB, Oklahoma
Previous ranking: Unranked in the blog’s preseason list of the Big 12’s top 25 players.
Making the case for Striker: Leading up to the Allstate Sugar Bowl, Striker was asked about Oklahoma’s underdog status against Alabama. Striker called it “a terrible question,” then went out on the field and showed why.
Outside Oklahoma quarterback Trevor Knight, no player had a bigger impact on the Sugar Bowl than Striker, who had three sacks and the biggest play of the game. With roughly a minute left, Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron had one final chance to lead the Crimson Tide on a game-tying drive. Instead, Striker came barreling around the edge and crashed into McCarron’s blindside. The hit popped the ball loose, and Sooners defensive end Geneo Grissom scooped it up and rumbled in for the game-clinching touchdown.
Striker had a penchant for creating big plays all season. On the first possession at Notre Dame, Striker slammed into quarterback Tommy Rees, knocking the ball into the air and into the arms of linebacker Corey Nelson, who gave the Sooners a quick 7-0 lead on the way to a 35-21 victory. He also gave Oklahoma the exclamation point in a win at Oklahoma State by returning a fumble for a touchdown as time expired.
Striker finished fourth in the Big 12 in sacks and was a major part of the Sooners’ surge late in the season. Just a sophomore this past season, Striker figures only to get better in 2014, too.